Saturday, September 22, 2012

It's Been A Busy Week At The Visitors' Centre

Eva at the Lingfield train station
This is is my friend, Eva, who came for a visit few weeks ago. We invited her to come while the temple was closed during the first part of September for cleaning and maintenance, thinking that we might have a little less busy schedule at the Visitors' Centre. Well, that wasn't necessarily true. The Visitors' Centre remains open when the temple shuts down, so we still had visitors to greet and work to do, but we enjoyed having Eva share part of that time with us - and so did our sister missionaries. We were all sad to see her go home!

Eva and I met eight years ago in Szazhalombatta, Hungary, where she hosted my friend and me while we were travelling with Clog America. She graciously opened the brand-new home her sons had just finished for her to Miriam Smith and I while we attended the "World Folkloriada" in Budapest and "Summerfest" in her town. Amy and Emily were part of the Clog America performing team. It was one of the highlights of my life to be there and to rub shoulders with groups of dancers and musicians from 80 different countries as we came together to present festivals nearly every night for two weeks, but I digress....

It was the first time I had ever stayed in the home of a volunteer host that I had never met before. Eva immediately made us feel welcome and comfortable. She is a retired chemical engineer with two grown sons. She spoke enough English that we could communicate easily and we soon developed a strong bond of friendship. (Now her English is excellent, and I am ashamed to say my Hungarian is not much better than it was in 2004.)

Over the years, we have stayed in touch off and on and have had the opportunity to meet several more times, both in Utah and in Szazhalombatta. Eva has become one of my dearest friends. We marvel that two "old" women who grew up as "enemies" during the Cold War (at least, that's what our respective governments wanted us to believe) could have so much in common! In many ways, we are alike, and together we have had some wonderful trips to beautiful Lake Balaton and other areas of Hungary as well as to destinations all over Utah and California. Who would have ever thought we would meet in London, England? One of the tender mercies of our mission is that her plane ticket to come to Gatwick Airport is only about $200 compared to over $1000 to come to Salt Lake City. We hope she will be able to come again while we are still here.

Twice, Eva has presented us with photo books of our trips together. She takes beautiful pictures and we cherish the books she has given us.

Eva's books: cover photos she took in
Draper, Utah and Newport Beach, California

A day in Park City

While she was here last week, Eva walked around the temple grounds several times when I was busy at the Visitors' Centre. (Early one morning, while the temple was closed, I joined her and a few minutes into our walk we ran into Elder Russell M. Nelson taking a picture of his wife, Wendy Watson Nelson, on the front steps of the temple. They were here on a very brief stopover. What a treat!)

With Eva's permission, I am posting some of the pictures she took while she was here - with a few of mine thrown in for good measure. Eva has captured some new views of the London Temple grounds and a few of the places we visited.

The front steps of the temple as seen from the A22

The Gate House

Welcome to the temple

From the gardens

The temple grounds

A beacon to the world

Another plane on approach to Gatwick

We drive a Vauxhall the sisters have named "Daisy"

The Christus


Sister Rodregues
Elder and Sister Terry
My closet office

The view from our kitchen window

Dinner at home

Sister Cardona and Sister Howard

A picnic on the temple grounds

Another sunny day and another picnic

Don, me, Sister Corbett,  Eva, Sister Cabrera, and Sister Rodrigues


The Manor House

Coming in for a landing

On Sunday, after church, we walked around Greenwich Park.

The Greenwich Prime Meridian -
one foot each in the eastern and western hemispheres.
Love those tree tunnels!

The white cliffs of Dover

British seagulls looking for a handout

Fish and chips in Folkestone

Thanks for your visit and the photos, Eva!                                  ~Pat~

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Gladys Knight, The Bee Gees, and Lady Gaga

Last Wednesday evening I had an incredible experience I didn't expect to have as missionary in England.
I was invited to particpate in a one-hour interview about the LDS Church and the Temple Visitors' Centre on Meridian FM 107, a news, talk, and rock music radio station in East Grinstead. The interview was conducted by Krys O'Brien, whom I had met a few weeks earlier at the "blessing" of a new Care Centre in East Grinstead.  Three religious leaders had attended the blessing:  a vicar from the Church of England, a local Scientology minister, and myself (representing President Raymond Lowry of the London Temple). The three of us had a cordial conversation prior to each of us giving a prayer for the new Centre, its staff, and patients. Joining the conversation was Krys O'Brien, who covered the event for Meridian Radio.

Krys is a fun and energetic young woman with an engaging personality and lovely British accent.  When she learned that I was a Mormon, she immediately asked if I could arrange an interview for her with Donny Osmond for an upcoming show. I told her I didn't think I could get Donny Osmond, but I could set up an interview with Donnie Carpenter, introducing myself as Director of the London Temple Visitors' Centre.  She knew where the London Temple was, knew very little about the LDS Church, and didn't know the Temple had a Visitors' Centre.  But she had a lot of questions about the Church and said she'd like to explore them on her Krys O'Brien Show the next day.  I said, "How about the following week?"  She agreed, and we set a date for September 12th.

I trusted Krys.  She was kind and respectful, open to new ideas and opinions, and unlike most of the sensational London media, she didn't appear to have any biases or a predetermined agenda.  She was delightful on the show.  She asked insightful questions, listened well, and allowed me to answer the questions without refutation and bantering. Her feedback was polite, reassuring, and complimentary.  I thoroughly enjoyed the evening. If you have patience, have something else to do while you are listening, and don't mind hearing a lot of  soft rock music, including Gladys Knight's Midnight Train to Georgia, the BeeGees, and Lady Gaga, you can catch the show at
The first 11 minutes are news, weather, and rock, followed by 45 minutes of interview, interspersed with soft rock. You may be able to skip some of the music by moving the bar below.  I hadn't known that this was a rock music station, or that the interview would last so long.  But Krys was wonderful and appreciative -- she invited me back.  I was able to invite people to the Visitors' Centre and teach more about the restored gospel than I would have thought possible.

It's days like this that make a  mission rewarding and fun!         ~ Don ~

On another note, The Book of Mormon Musical is coming to London, with signs posted in the Underground, on the front page of the London Evening Standard, on double-decker busses. and on boards all over the city saying "The Mormons Are Coming!"   Most people will see through the satire of this misguided play, and it won't hurt the Church in London or in LA any more than it did in NYC.  More people are likely to read the book, and it will open doors to the missionaries. Cheers from London!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bring Your Umbrella!

I had to come to London to learn the true meaning of the letters "BYU."  As I recently welcomed a young man in from the rain to the Visitors' Centre, wearing a drenched BYU T-shirt, it suddenly occurred to me -- BYU in England means Bring Your Umbrella.  It has rained a lot here, despite what the Flandros might tell you about the beautiful weather they enjoyed while they visited us.  It's getting cool, though, and I can tell fall is in the air. Speaking of fall, that means BYU football has arrived again.  Exciting! When is the last time you watched a BYU football game at 3 in the morning? 

Anyway, the British will tell you that you should always bring an umbrella.  If it is not raining, wait five minutes or drive five miles away and it will rain.  Or if it is raining, wait five minutes or drive five miles away, and the sun will shine.  Umbrellas are everywhere, and they are very needed.  Don't leave home without one.

Parents are like umbrellas.  They protect children from life's "rainy days."  They want what is best for their children. Once you become a parent, you are always a parent.  You always care about the safety and welfare of your children and your grandchildren, and their well being and happiness.  I think they call this love.

Families are also like umbrellas. Good families love each other, care for each other, and protect each other.  We have loved seeing our daughters and their families help each other, support each other, and care about each other while we have been gone.  We are glad that they continue to have Sunday dinners at our house once a month, without us, to celebrate family birthdays for the month.  It is so much fun to Skype them and sing "Happy Birthday" with them when they get together.

Elderly people in England also apparently need care and protection.  At least that's what the sign says.        ~Don~


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hooray for Sister Missionaries!

Sister Missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (my definition): a unique group of beautiful, enthusiastic young women between the ages of 21 and 28 who voluntarily devote 18 months of their time, often in a foreign country, to lift and bless people by teaching them about Jesus Christ and His gospel.

From "Why would these young... women choose to put on their dress clothes and traipse around strange parts of the world...?  The Lord's Church has always been a missionary church. Just as Jesus Christ and His disciples preached the gospel, more than 50,000 missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are spreading His word today. They are called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in all parts of the world....  Missionaries voluntarily put aside school, work and dating for about two years in order to serve the Lord at their own expense. Communication with family is even limited to letters or email and very occasional phone calls so that they can focus wholeheartedly on serving the Lord and the people where they serve. During their two years of full time service they devote themselves to studying, meeting people and teaching about Jesus Christ and His restored Church. Their work is a labor of love, and most missionaries end up feeling they gained more than they gave by serving."

Exhibit A:  This is a short photo journal of the sisters we have grown to love and respect so much as we have worked side by side with them for the past nine months at the London Temple Visitors' Centre. They are each unique and amazing in their own way. If all young women were like our sister missionaries, the world would be a better place!

This is a photo of Sisters Jones, Corbett, Cabrera, Burrows and Casasola:  five terrific sisters who met us at the door of the Visitors' Centre and welcomed us last January 14th as we had arrived from Heathrow Airport. Having had just a few days of training at the MTC, we had a lot to learn. Lucky for us, they already knew how to run a Visitors' Centre and they taught us how!

(From the left) Sisters Jones, Corbett, Cabrera, Burrows and Casasola

Sister Jones is from Provo, Utah, Sister Corbett from Orem, Utah. Sister Cabrera from Chile, Sister Burrows from Provo, Utah, and Sister Casasola from southern California. In February, we added Sister Barber, who was a "visa waiter" from Dublin, Ireland. She stayed with us for a few months and then headed for the St. George Visitors' Center, where she will finish her mission.

Sisters Casasola, Cabrera, Jones, Barber, Burrows and Corbett

When Sister Casasola was transferred to another area of the mission. Sister Maughan (pronounced "Morn") joined us. She's our only official British sister, to date, hailing from Gloucester, England.

Sisters Burrows, Corbett, Jones, Cabrera, Barber and Maughan
In April, we received Sister Cardona from France and Sister Boman from Provo. Sister Boman was raised in Angola.

Sisters Cabrera, Jones, Cardona, Maughan and Boman

Sister Corner, also from England, joined us for a short time while she also waited for her visa. She is now finishing her mission in the California Anaheim Mission.

Sisters Corner, Maughan, Cabrera and Burrows
preparing a fun Monday night activity from families.

Here we all are with Elder Mark Lippert, who was asked to leave his home by his parents when he joined the Church last year. He lived with a wonderful family down the street from the temple and visited us often. While he waited for his mission call he received lessons from our sisters and  occasionally attended our training meetings. He is now serving in Romania and loving it.

April 2012 - outside our "flat"

Around Mothers' Day (the U.S. one), our sisters got together and cooked us a delicious dinner in the basement of the Accommodation Centre. What a surprise and a treat that was!

Sisters Cabrera, Corbett, Burrows, Barber and Maughan

I love the next photo. Our sisters often take one of the Savior's outstretched hands and hang on to it. They remind us of the need we all have for His help.

Sister Cabrera, in a reflective mood,
thinking abou our  Savior, Jesus Christ.
(You may remember she was the one who saved
nine ducklings in the early spring.)

Sisters Cabrera, Corbett, Boman, Jones, Burrows and Maughan

When the weather is good, our sisters give garden tours on the temple grounds.

Sister Howard (in pink), Sister Boman (beige and red)
and Sister Cabrera (in purple)

Companions:  Sister Maughan and Sister Burrows
Sister Rodrigues (in the purple) arrived from Portugal in May. We are so fortunate to have French, Portuguese, and Spanish speaking sisters at our Visitors' Centre. They use their native languages every week to teach those who come to the centre.

Sister Rodrigues, from Portugal, arrived in May.

On Fathers' Day, we took an excursion to the Hyde Park Visitors' Centre by train. We all loved it!!

All of us waiting for the train.

Sister Rodrigues and Sister Boman waiting at Lingfield Station.

Sisters Cabrera, Rodrigues, and Jones, Elder Carpenter,
Sisters Boman, Cardona and Maughan.

On the train from Lingfield to Victoria Station.

Sister Boman and Sister Rodrigues at
the Hyde Park Visitors' Centre.

We met with the Hyde Park Visitors' Centre sisters and learned a lot by sharing our experiences at both the Visitors' Centres.

Sisters serving at both the London Temple VC and the Hyde Park VC in June.

The view of the Christus statue at the Hyde Park VC
from Exhibition Road

We stopped to see the Thames and the London Eye
on our way back to Victoria Station.

Sister Cabrera and Sister Jones heading home.

In June, we added Brother and Sister Terry to our Visitors' Centre missionary group. They have come here from St. George, Utah. Shortly after they arrived, we had a training meeting and lunch together in our "flat."

The Terrys, with Sisters Cardona, Jones, Cabrera, Rodrigues, Boman and Maughan.

Sister Howard joined us in August. This is a photo of a  Monday evening activity at the VC. 

Sister Howard with Sister Cabrera and friend.

We love to have our photos taken in front of the temple.

Sisters Corbett and Cabrera (back) with
Sisters Cardona, Howard and Rodrigues (front).

A fun photo opp.

Sisters Corbett, Howard, Rodrigues and Cardona

Waiting for our Training Meeting to start.

Caught in the act: Twix for breakfast!

Sister Cardona with her adopted family, the Boutoilles.
Last week, on Monday, we all got together and spend part of our P-Day at Hever Castle. The weather was amazing and we had a great time.

(From the left) Sisters Corbett, Terry, Cardona, Elder Terry,
Sisters Howard, Rodrigues and Cabrera.

We love all the sister missionaries - and Seniors - who have served at the London Temple Visitors' Centre. Each one of them brings a special, unique perspective to the work that we do. All of them have a deep desire to serve others and bear powerful testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. All of them are dedicated to doing their best and have made significant sacrifices to be here. It is a joy to know them, to work with them, and to learn from their courage, faith, and love. They are the best!                           ~Pat~